Mercedes-Benz 600 Review

By: John Wright

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Mercedes-Benz 600 Mercedes-Benz 600 Mercedes-Benz 600
Mercedes-Benz 600 Mercedes-Benz 600 Mercedes-Benz 600
Mercedes-Benz 600 Mercedes-Benz 600 Mercedes-Benz 600
Mercedes-Benz 600 Mercedes-Benz 600 Mercedes-Benz 600
Mercedes-Benz 600 Mercedes-Benz 600 Mercedes-Benz 600

John Wright gets all misty-eyed about the Grosser

Mercedes-Benz 600 Review
Mercedes-Benz 600

 

Mercedes-Benz 600

It was not until 1963 that I even questioned the idea that the Rolls-Royce was the best car in the world. I had a kind of hierarchy in my mind with Cadillac, Lincoln and Imperial one grade further down. Aston Martin, Lagonda and Alvis were thereabouts.

Then on the third rung came Jaguar, defunct Armstrong-Siddeley, Daimler (in Jaguar custody), Mercedes-Benz and Buick. For some reason I didn't count Ferrari, Porsche and the like.

The staggering news for 1963 was the coming of the 6.3-litre V8 Mercedes-Benz 600 'Grosser' (from the German for 'the great Mercedes'), a car that seemed to be aimed directly at surpassing Rolls-Royce.

In fact, it looked like a lay down misère. After all, the new Mercedes could reach a top speed of 127mph (204km/h) and how much sleeker it looked than the ancient Silver Cloud III or the Phantom V.

I still remember the Wheels story, though I'm vague about some details. Was this the international press launch where the journalists noted how well the bald middle-aged chauffeur who collected them from the airport drove? He was Fangio.

There was a gag in the piece about a possible advertisement for a chauffeur for a 600: 'must be willing to lift bonnet manually' (because almost everything else was electric, including the seats, doors and boot. Engage 'D' and the parking brake automatically disengaged.)

The air suspension was superlative. About all Road & Track found to carp about were the 'crude' (by US standards) air-conditioning and the poorly placed driver's ashtray. Also, the styling wasn't sufficiently distinctive.

The 600 proved that Daimler-Benz had moved out of the Jaguar league. Suddenly I understood why the Mercedes-Benz 220SE, with its 2.2-litre engine and vinyl upholstery, cost more than a Mark 2 3.8.

For me, the 600 declared the end of the early post-war era, a hallmark of which was the decline of the British automotive industry along with the former empire's world dominance. How quaintly dated the 1959 Armstrong-Siddeley Star Sapphire and Daimler Majestic Major seemed by 1963.

In Unique Cars Issue 339 there was a feature on the great cars of 1962 but how about 1963 with the Porsche 911, Mercedes-Benz 230SL (the pair inseparable in my mind then, and even now!), Buick Riviera, Corvette Sting Ray, EH Holden Premier, Lamborghini 350GT and cruising at the front of the pack, the awesome Mercedes-Benz 600 'Grosser' Pullman?

Road & Track concluded its introductory paragraph of the 600 road test thus: 'If, instead of buying a Mercedes 600, you invested the same amount of money in other cars you could get a Lincoln Continental, Buick Riviera, two Pontiac GTOs and still have enough change left over for two and a half or three Volkswagens. The Mercedes 600 is not an ordinary car.'

 

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